Buffetgate & black belts.. a week’s a long time in Peterborough politics

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

It was a fun-filled week in the wacky world of Peterborough politics. We had Buffetgate at the town hall, the new chief executive at the Combined Authority opened his mouth (not for a canape) and put his foot in it, and even-tempered MP Shailesh Vara got mad.

Let’s start with Buffetgate which was the revelation city councillors were scoffing food and quaffing wine after meetings, all paid for by me and you, the taxpayer.

The total annual bill to refresh our hungry and thirsty councillors comes to £4,500 which some might say is but a drop of Cabernet in the Fletton Quays. Maybe so, but a donation to a food bank instead might have earned them the moral high ground.

But, hey, when you’re so hungry you could eat your own trotters what use is the moral high ground?

Martin Whiteley, the first chief executive of the new Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, should never have to go hungry given he is being paid a whopping £150,000 a year.

Now, like me, you might have been under the impresson this authority had been foisted on us by central government but according to Mr Whiteley “local people voted for devolution’’.

That’s what he said in his first press release since being appointed to his new role. It turns out he didn’t mean it, which was just as well as the statement simply wasn’t true.

Still at least he didn’t upset Shailesh Vara.

That honour goes to the boss of Highways England Jim O’Sullivan who heads the organisation responsible for the pathetic planning and publicity around the A1 roadworks that brought gridlock to Peterborough.

Mr Vara wrote to Mr O’Sullivan to complain about the chaos caused by the roadworks. But not only did Jim fail to fix it, he didn’t even respond.

MPs, even mild-mannered ones, don’t like being ignored, especially by civil servants.

The upshot was harsh words in Parliament and finally there followed a humiliating U-turn and grovelling apology from Highways England.

Mr O’Sullivan probably doesn’t realise it, but he got off lightly – Mr Vara is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Pay and dismay

There’s been a lot of job sharing, secondments and pay rises among the bosses at Peterborough City Council recently.

I wonder where it all might end..

I have a fevered imagination, so here’s my vision of the future:

“Peterborough City Council appoints a senior officer to monitor the salaries of its senior officers. The salary of the Senior Salary Monitoring Officer is worked out by the following formula: think of a number and double it.

Going forward, the Senior Salary Monitoring Officer combines his or her role with that of being the interim Senior Salary Monitoring Officer for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. He or she is also seconded to Cambridgeshire County Council as its permament part time Senior Salary Monitoring Officer.

He or she then gets another whopping pay rise (or two).

The city council begins a search for a senior officer for its newly created post of Austerity Awareness Director. The successful applicant will report directly to the Senior Salary Monitoring Officer and among his or her duties will be ordering the post-meeting buffets. The salary will be competitive and commensurate with the applicant’s experience and brass neck.’’

Silva lining

This week’s Epitome of Everything That’s Wrong With Modern Britain award goes to Fabio Silva, who has gained notoriety for his anti-social antics in a Spalding car park. The national press reported how he parked his 10-year-old Seat in the centre of four bays to avoid anybody scratching it. He then boasted on Facebook: “Sorry for not wanting idiots ruining my pride and joy.’’ I understand his frustration if someone has damaged his car, but as a wise man once put it “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem’’.

Park strife

I spent Sunday morning weeding as the kids played happily in the sun. Sounds idyllic, but I was fuming.

The weeding was not in my back garden but at the nice little children’s playground near to our home. Like many in the city, it is not properly maintained. As well as fining people for littering (quite rightly) Peterborough City Council should fine itself for its dereliction of civic duty.

Film it like Beckham

Good to see the Beckham family dropping in to Sibson Airfield to watch Brooklyn take up his sky dive Christmas present from his dad David who filmed the fun.

I liked the quote from centre manager Marty Wilson who said of the Beckhams: “They were very down to earth.’’

Well, Brooklyn definitely was.

Diary Of A Bad Dad

I’m used to getting a rude awakening from Schoolgirl T. Early doors Monday she barrelled into our bedroom. Normally she disturbs my slumber with a question. “Where’s my Snow White dress?’’ or “Can I have some really red apple?’’.

But this time it was different and she was in a bit of a panic.

“He’s crying, he really needs you,’’ she implored.

And her little brother was crying. Normally, when he wakes up he recites the names of all the engines in the Thomas the Tank Engine stories or more recently sings/ shouts ‘Let It Go’ at the top of his voice.

I rushed into his bedroom and found him with his leg stuck in the railings of his cot bed.

I reacted like the man I am and shouted ‘Mum, come here, he’s stuck.’

Mum or International Rescue as I like to call her quickly extricated him and the drama was soon over.

And it’s another thing to add to his ever growing list of “Things I Did That My Sister Didn’t.’’